“I am convinced that wise planning is good. But plans, like material possessions, must always be held loosely. Yes-always!”
It’s not a secret. There’s no surprise in what I’m about to say. No façade at work here in any way, shape, or form. In fact, when I finally get around to telling you (cause I know the suspense is just killing you?), most of you will react by saying something like, “Well duh!!!” OK, are you ready for the BIG REVEAL? Drum roll please. I, Clay Elliott, like fashion.
I know, I know, it’s hard to believe. But anyone who has ever met me can attest to the fact that I like everything about fashion: colors, patterns, bow ties, shoes, accessories, what pairs well with what, textures etc. etc. etc. I look at fashion as an artist looks at a canvas or a tattoo artist looks at a specific section of a body for the perfect placement of a tattoo, or a sculpture looks at a lump of clay already knowing in his mind what he will create. Clothes are my canvas and I honestly can say that I don’t really have many rules for myself regarding fashion when it comes right down to it. Modesty still intact, of course.
Now, I don’t talk about these things like this very often because of the stigma and snap judgments people make about such things. I’m sure you can deduce what these assumptions are in quick order. That’s not even the reason why I explained what I did in the above paragraphs.
I’m a collector of certain things…clothes, shoes, bow ties, cologne. Are any of these things terrible or evil in and of themselves? No. Could they be? Yes, in a very dangerous way if we’re not careful.
We’re immensely spoiled, and the very things that we thought would bring us happiness and satisfaction, turn out to be some of our biggest nemesis’. STUFF! Stuff everywhere begins to cloud our minds. Cleanliness turns to clutter to the point of significant amounts of anxiety at times. We don’t even know where to begin, so instead of doing small amounts of cleaning out the “stuff,” we’re left paralyzed by the sheer immensity of the task of even cleaning out a closet.
Why do you think we frequently hear people say, “Well, it’s about time for some Spring cleaning around here!?” It’s because STUFF has taken over and we desperately want to take our lives, our minds, our decision-making skills back from the clutter that enslaves us.
This is why Jesus proclaimed, “You cannot serve two masters…love of God and love of money (Matt. 6:24).” And in our case love of money represents buying things, accumulating things, collecting things.
Why can this turn into such a detrimental situation? Because our hearts love and long to be satisfied. So, we “Keep up with the Jones’s” to try to make our hearts full. Each one of us, if we’re really honest with ourselves, wants, desires, craves, this God-sized hole in our heart to somehow be filled. And because we live in a fallen world where the sin of idolatry is still in full swing, we fill the gaping hole in our heart with things (food, money, power, success, even bowtie collections, lust) instead of the Lord Jesus Christ. This article I’m writing right now is kicking my tail. Flashing neon signs that read “Hypocrite, Hypocrite, Hypocrite” are passing through my mind like crazy.
The allure is that material wealth or the next fancy piece of technology will finally be able to fill our hearts. But, if we are honest with ourselves, these THINGS never satisfy. Sure, they’re cool for a bit, until the next best thing comes along. And then we believe THAT thing will satisfy since the one before it wasn’t good enough.
So, what is the answer for a heart bent toward materialistic happiness? Having a heart filled to overflowing with the joy of the Lord Jesus. Living and knowing you are IN Christ who is your Life. The only problem is, so many people say, ” Well that’s all well and good for you, but I need something tangible!” A new truck or new set of golf clubs is tangible…I can hold the steering wheel in my hands and I can grip a new set of Taylor Made irons and swing away!
Here’s the shocking news, fullness of joy in Christ IS tangible here, right here, right now. Why do you think Jesus wrote, “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:19-21).”
Think about what we’ve just been discussing. Are we coming to realize that these things can become “first world problems” fairly quickly if left unchecked?
Now, picture a scenario with me, if you will. Picture a single individual, a couple, or maybe even a couple with small children living here in the USA. Let me set the stage just a bit. For any of these folks just mentioned they have stable jobs, normal routines, a nice cozy house, soccer practice and ballet- if they have children. Maybe a dog or pet of some kind, which they of course love dearly. I’ve just described a sort of idyllic, peaceful, comfortable home and life. Sure, it’s not without its troubles. But from a worldly standpoint they’re living a pretty decent life.
Now, picture any of the individuals or couples that I just mentioned praying deliberately, intentionally, selflessly about God’s calling on their life. And through a number of not so subtle events, they believe the Lord is directing them to Albania, a Lithuanian village, or perhaps a village in Romania, where they have to leave their home, their job, their secure schedule, their kids school programs, their extended family, much of their…EHEMMM…”stuff!” Now they’re raising support trusting that God Himself will provide for ALL their needs. Also throw in the mix learning a different language, a different culture, having a different ministry team with all the interesting dynamics that go along with that.
These missionaries went from basically having every essential need and many times even wants met, to not knowing how to get a half gallon of milk at the market because they don’t know the language yet.
Let me tell you something, you learn really quickly how much you believed you were in control of your life compared to how much you actually were when that goes down. You better start believing really quickly that God is in control.
I’m what we call a fulltime stateside missionary. What that means is I get to be essential support for our missionaries called to European countries. I DO actually take trips to places in Europe to counsel, encourage, spend time with, pray with and be with our missionaries…and be in a bunch of meetings as well. Usually these trips last 10-14 days, and by the time that last day comes up, I’m ready to hear a full conversation in English and sleep in my own bed. Why? Because we’re creatures that crave comfort and stability. My heart longs for these “things.” If this happens to me after a 10-day trip, imagine what our missionaries experience as they leave the known behind to follow Him into the un-known. Please pray for our missionaries stationed all across Europe- your prayers uphold them more than you realize! Pray their hearts would be satisfied with what Christ brings rather than the creature comforts we so often desire. Pray for their continued trust in Him as they settle into their new home and role in a foreign land.
Missionaries get mad props from me all the time. They answered the call to leave EVERYTHING they knew for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ, because of what He’s done for them personally and because they have a burden to see more and more people saved by the gospel of grace and Good News.
I want to put sort of a disclaimer on this article. I’m not writing this in view of arguing for there to be a season of purging the “stuff” in our lives. Although, for many of us, that might do some real good. I’m genuinely asking you, and myself, to “choose this day whom you will serve.” Will you and I serve ourselves amassing more and more stuff? Or, will we focus our hearts, motives, and attentions on the Lord Jesus and our neighbors?
Listen carefully, I’m also not writing this telling “all of us sinners to drop everything and become missionaries cause if we don’t, we don’t love Jesus enough!” What I do think we should do is take inventory of our lives, our hearts, our homes, our motives of what we have and why we may desire to get more and more. Our treasure is not here, so let’s start living with the knowledge that our treasure is in heaven…and look forward to that day when we see Jesus face to face. We certainly won’t have need for “stuff” then!
This has always been one of my favorite quotes, so I’ll end with it here:
“Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”
– Corrie ten Boom
- Please pray for the new missionaries we have support raising during this time. Pray that even through COVID 19 individuals and churches would still step out in faith and support them financially and prayerfully.
- Please pray for less fortunate places in Europe like Romania during this time of the Coronavirus. There is a massive shortage of food in many places and people are having to traveling 90 minutes to find any food or supplies.
Clayton J. Elliott, Kontaktmission USA
Director of Pastoral Ministries and Prayer